Why Moving Costs More than you Think

According to numerous surveys, nearly 20% of moves nationwide are the result of families upgrading from smaller homes and apartments to a larger, more well-appointed ones.

Those upgrades account for a big chunk of total relocations, but the other 85% are caused by things like death and divorce, corporate transfers, retirement, and young adults striking out on their own for the first time.

If there’s one constant in the chaotic world of moving, it’s that moves frequently cost more than customers think they will.

This is the case for numerous reasons, many of which we’ve covered in previous articles like these—

Legitimate Ways Moving Companies Increase Final Cost and Additional Moving Costs to Look Out For.

But it’s the overlooked intangibles that often represent the biggest outlays of additional cash.

These pesky expenses can add up quickly, and if not managed properly they’re capable of draining savings accounts with alarming efficiency.

See our full list of moving costs to avoid being caught off-guard.

1. Full-Service Movers aren’t Cheap

Not by a longshot.

Unless you’re a recent college grad moving locally from one studio apartment to another, chances are if you hire interstate movers you’ll pay more than $1,000.

For established, multi-children families who’ll need packing and other optional services, the cost can be four of five times that much—maybe more.

Now take that same scenario and apply it to a long-distance interstate move.

And just for kicks throw in a month or two of storage, and suddenly you could be looking at a bill somewhere north of $10,000.

Sure you could pull the old pizza and beer ‘moving party’ trick, but the older you (and your friends and family) get and the more stuff you accumulate, the less feasible this becomes.

Those same people who happily helped you move a decade ago may even whisper nasty things behind your back, like… “Why don’t you hire movers you cheap (insert expletive here)!

See how much your specific move should cost.

2. Realtor’s Fees

Real estate agents provide valuable services that are absolutely necessary for most families buying or selling a home.

In most instances, they charge sellers between 4 and 7% of the home’s sale price, which can equate to big bucks on pricy residences.

Though realtor’s fees may be rolled into a mortgage, for those who choose to pay them out of hand, the cost can be significant.

For a $300,000 dollar home, a 5% realtor’s commission comes in at a hefty $15,000.

If your realtor spent gobs of time tracking down and courting potential buyers and sold your home for top dollar it may seem like a great value.

On the other hand, if your home sold the first day it was listed, and your agent did little more than keep you company during the closing, you may feel like you got duped.

It’s not so well-known, but there aren’t any states that regulate realtor’s commissions, so they’re always open for negotiation.

Curious about negotiating with moving companies?

3. Travel Expenses Add Up

In fairy tales, families don’t ever need storage or temporary lodging, because they’re always able to move from their old home into their new one in a single day.

Though this peachy scenario isn’t unheard of, in real life it’s far from the norm.

It’s more likely that a night or two in a hotel will be a necessity.

For those moving cross-country, those two nights in a hotel might be more like two weeks.

Now imagine having three kids and a spouse whom demand to be fed and entertained constantly.

Suddenly that mid-move hiatus you were looking forward to might be as stressful and expensive as a month in an ICU.
Lodging isn’t cheap, nor are three meals a day at pricy restaurants.

And you’ll need to fill the car’s tank every day or two while traveling, amuse everyone around-the-clock, and…
Well, you get the point.

4. Lost Wages

For high-level executives moving to fill new positions in distant states, relocation-related expenses are almost always covered.

If that new job is with a current employer, there probably won’t be any disruption in pay even though there will be unproductive downtime in the middle of the move.

But for the majority of folks, cushy benefits packages like these just don’t exist.

Customers paying for their own moves tend to focus on nuts-and-bolts expenses like packing, labor, and transportation, but lost wages can be just as costly.

Doing your own packing is a great way to save money, but in some cases it’s better to let the pros handle it.

If your daily salary or wages are more than what you’d pay for packing service, it may make sense to let the company handle it—and accept the liability.

If you’ll be starting with a new company or don’t have a job lined up, you’ll want to account for the inevitable drop in cash flow until you’re settled into your new home and happily back to work. See how to find a job in a new city before moving.

Especially these days, it’s best to err on the high side when calculating these costs.

Should You Move for Work?

5. Costs Associated with your Old and New Homes

Whether moving into a new home, apartment, or condo, you’ll likely be bombarded with an annoying array of costs that may leave your purse or wallet feeling lighter than it has in ages.

Here we’re talking about things like down payments, closing costs, home inspections, security and pet deposits, homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policy premiums, and turn-offs and set-ups for cable, internet, and utilities.

All told, these costs can easily total in the thousands of dollars, and unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid them.

6. Restocking and Redecorating

If you’re hopelessly frugal or just downright broke, buying new furniture may not be an option, but there will still be plenty of other expenses waiting behind that new front door.

First, you’ll realize that the pantry and refrigerator are empty and that the only cleaning products the previous owner left behind are a half-used bar of soap and a Brillo pad from the Reagan era.

In addition to food, you may need rugs, curtains, mops, and laundry detergent too, so spending a few hundred bucks at Wal-Mart or Target isn’t out of the question.

If your new home is significantly larger than your old one, you may also discover lots of empty spaces in dire need of dressers, mirrors, pictures, and lamps.

And chances are the kids will want their rooms painted, so don’t forget about the primer, paint, and brushes.

Is It Cheaper to Move Furniture or Buy New?

7. Loss and Damage

As if the aforementioned expenses weren’t enough to send cost-conscious families into a tailspin, two of moving’s biggest pitfalls might just do the trick.

Though some lucky consumers avoid loss and damage entirely, for others they’re just two more unpleasant things to deal with after an already stressful move.

Simply put, moving is a risky business.

Regardless of how careful and professional your moving crew is things often get dented, gouged, crushed, and misplaced.

It’s scenarios like these that make many customers wish they’d paid closer attention when their consultant was discussing insurance on the front side of their move.

There’s good news too though.

According to the American Moving & Storage Association, only 20% of moves result in a claim.

That means you’ve got an 80% chance of having no loss or damage.

But don’t let your guard down, because you’ll still want to familiarize yourself with the insurance (valuation) options available to you, and the claims procedures of the moving company you hire.

If you opt for the mover’s basic free coverage, you could be out big bucks if an expensive item gets lost or damaged.

Conversely, if you pay for Full-Value Replacement Coverage and your move goes off without a hitch, you may have just spent hundreds or thousands of dollars for nothing… and there aren’t any refunds.


Moving to a new home or apartment can be a fun and adventurous way to start a new chapter in your life.

Homes can be great investments too, and they’re often linked to wonderful memories that last a lifetime.

But there’s a flipside…

Though it may be wonderful sleeping in an expansive master bedroom with his and her walk-in closets, that mountain-size mortgage you’ll have to worry about every month for the next 30 years may make it seem like a prison.

Moving can be financially draining, socially isolating, and unimaginably stressful, so it’s wise to think about the pros and cons carefully before diving in.

You May Be Interested In

Not what you were looking for?

Check out other categories that can help you find the information you need!

See All
Hide All